Transhumanism

Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

From Fernand Léger and the Rise of the Man-Machine

Early in life, Léger embraced a transcendent, quasi-Futurist love of technological energy along with the Cubist notion of putting the squeeze on: fracturing objects into sharp geometric shapes. But soon, his brand of Cubism evolved into an automaton-esque figurative style distinguished by his focus on cylindrical forms. These cylindrical android figures express a synchronization between human and machine that is most relevant today given the coming artificial intelligence workplace. When we look at Léger with new eyes, we see that he sought to express the noise, dynamism, and speed of the new technology machinery in which he and we find ourselves immersed.

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The military theme in Léger’s oeuvre remains prominent in post-WWI paintings like “La partie de cartes” (“The Card Game,” 1917), where three decorated soldiers tumble out of themselves and ripple across the picture plane, merging into an ecstatic ménage à trois through the interlacing repetitions of their machine forms. This post-flesh, man-machine unanimity could be seen as a precedent, suggestive of our current post-human condition.

The resplendent mélange of seated tin men — all evocative of that famous one from Oz — displays a frantic, cybernetic logic in terms of the painting’s visual tactility, with once lumpen and deadlocked male forms set flowing in jerks and spasms across the surface. The artist has systematically imposed on them a vibrating restlessness through labyrinthine extensions and doublings, making their flesh undergo steps of annihilation into transubstantiation. The composition’s flickering, staccato repetitions create the impression of a rolling bacchanalia where human forms transcend their fleshiness and extend themselves through motorized re-embodiment. Léger seems to suggest that the truth of life is found not through chance, as one might glean from the card game, but through the technological apparatus of bodies tumbling into a field of circuits.

The Social Pressure To Become Transhuman 

From Super-intelligence and eternal life: transhumanism’s faithful follow it blindly into a future for the elite

One problem is that a highly competitive social environment doesn’t lend itself to diverse ways of being. Instead it demands increasingly efficient behaviour. Take students, for example. If some have access to pills that allow them to achieve better results, can other students afford not to follow? This is already a quandary. Increasing numbers of students reportedly pop performance-enhancing pills. And if pills become more powerful, or if the enhancements involve genetic engineering or intrusive nanotechnology that offer even stronger competitive advantages, what then? Rejecting an advanced technological orthodoxy could potentially render someone socially and economically moribund (perhaps evolutionarily so), while everyone with access is effectively forced to participate to keep up.

Are You Living in a Simulation?

From Are You Living in a Simulation?

This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.

The Spiritual Side of Transhumanism

From God in the machine: my strange journey into transhumanism | Technology | The Guardian

What makes the transhumanist movement so seductive is that it promises to restore, through science, the transcendent hopes that science itself has obliterated. Transhumanists do not believe in the existence of a soul, but they are not strict materialists, either. Kurzweil claims he is a “patternist”, characterising consciousness as the result of biological processes, “a pattern of matter and energy that persists over time”. These patterns, which contain what we tend to think of as our identity, are currently running on physical hardware – the body – that will one day give out. But they can, at least in theory, be transferred onto supercomputers, robotic surrogates or human clones. A pattern, transhumanists would insist, is not the same as a soul. But it’s not difficult to see how it satisfies the same longing. At the very least, a pattern suggests that there is some essential core of our being that will survive and perhaps transcend the inevitable degradation of flesh.

Of course, mind uploading has spurred all kinds of philosophical anxieties. If the pattern of your consciousness is transferred onto a computer, is the pattern “you” or a simulation of your mind? One camp of transhumanists have argued that true resurrection can happen only if it is bodily resurrection. They tend to favour cryonics and bionics, which promise to resurrect the entire body or else supplement the living form with technologies to indefinitely extend life.

If you never heard of Transhumanism, this is a great place to start.